Don Widmer is a Chicago-based book and paper artist. His practice incorporates hand papermaking and letterpress printing. His experimental letterpress work utilizes relief printing with a painterly approach.
Letterpress printing is a form of relief printing which uses a printing press. This artisanal form of printing uses the same techniques developed by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. Each color is applied separately using movable wood and metal type, photo-etched zinc “cuts”, polymer plates, wood cuts or linoleum blocks. I work from a photograph to create a watercolor painting. I scan and digitally separate the painting into a series of overlapping colors. I create polymer plates from my digital files. These plates are locked onto the bed of a Vandercook press, inked, and transferred onto paper through the application of pressure.
Field of Poppies was inspired by a visit to the Chicago Botanic Gardens during the summer of 2013, where a vibrant field of poppies shimmered in the afternoon sun. This artwork features 9 colors of ink, each requiring a separate impression.
I created the handmade paper used in Iris from the leaves and stems of my friend’s iris plants harvested at the end of the season. I cook the plant material with soda ash in order to break down the cellulose and achieve a pulp which is pH neutral. The iris pulp was combined with cotton fibers to form a sheet ready for printing. This paper is considered archival quality. The printed iris image features 5 colors of ink, requiring 5 times through the printing press.
When matting and framing my work on handmade paper, I like to float the artwork above the mat in order to expose the paper’s unique deckle edge.
Matboard and More is profiling artists and groups that use our products as part of the 2015 Photo Contest.